Want to know more about foster care and adoption? Go to sendrelief.org/foster-care-adoption/.
Announcer: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, were here to support and encourage you along the way. And now, your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Lynette E.: Welcome back to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. I’m excited today Tera, to meet your new friend. You’ll have to tell us about this great family that you’ve met, and their amazing story their going to share about adoption.
Tera M: It really is, and not too long ago I had the privilege of going to Texas for training with the Karyn Purvis Institute for Child Development. While I was there, I met a really sweet young mom named Amelia, and she’s Canadian by way of Philadelphia.
Tera M: Her story was really, really intriguing to me and I thought everybody would really want to meet her.
Lynette E.: This gal is real.
Tera M: Yes, so Amelia, welcome to the podcast.
Amelia R: Hi, thanks for having me.
Tera M: Amelia, why don’t you tell us a bit about your family.
Amelia R: Sure. I have two daughters. The oldest daughter is Muncie, and she’s six years old. We adopted her from India two and a half years ago. And my younger daughter Zara, is 20 months old.
Tera M: So let’s do the math here, so you were in India two and a half years ago and Zara is 20 months old. So the story is…
Amelia R: So while we were in India adopting Muncie, we also became pregnant. So we had two children come to our family two different ways in one year.
Tera M: Wow.
Lynette E.: In one year, wow.
Tera M: So your family aside from being an adoptive family and having two girls join your family within a year, very differently, you and your husband are also kind of a conspicuous family.
Tera M: Varoon is Indian, and you’re American, and you live in Canada.
Tera M: Also Amelia, aside from being a multicultural family and an adoptive family, tell us what you do for a living.
Amelia R: I work part time as a therapist for families with children who have experienced trauma or are having attachment difficulties. So my professional life and my personal life overlap in a lot of ways.
Lynette E.: I love that on your blog, you had written, before you brought your daughter home from India, you said How on Earth will I know how to love and care for a child. You said a child whose first months might have been filled with moment of neglect or fear, abuse or want, how, I think we’ve all felt this way, will I get my life organized, me selfishness into check and my energy constant. I love your transparency.
Tera M: Amelia, tell us a bit about how you and Varoon decided that you wanted to be adoptive parents.
Amelia R: Well we met when we were in university. My husband was going to university on one side of Canada, and I was going to university on the other side, but we were both involved in a campus ministry so we met while we were on a missions trip in Africa, actually. Even there, while we were chatting, I talked about wanting to prioritize adoption. I had two cousins who were both adopted from Asia. And two of closest friends when I was growing up were adopted and so it just seemed normal to me that if somebody didn’t have a home, and somebody did have a home, then you would open up your home to them.
Amelia R: It was sort of a bit of a deal breaker when I met my husband and thankfully he had also put adoption on his heart. He had converted from Hinduism to Christianity when he was in university and he really understood adoption in light of the gospel and how God adopted us into His family and so that would be something we could mirror in our own family.
Tera M: So when you decided to bring home a child, you all decided to go to India. His home country.
Amelia R: So we decided to adopt from India, mostly because it seemed logical. My husband was from there, he and I both speak the language, him much better than I, and the times previously that we had visited India, we were really, really struck, just by the poverty and the immense need. We had done lots of visits with different ministries that work with the poor and spent some time in slums. Yes, it seemed like that’s how God was leading our family.
Amelia R: We also wanted to prioritize adoption. We felt called to begin our family that way so we did not try for children biologically, but after 3 years of marriage, we began the adoption process from India, because we felt personally, that we wanted to make sure that if it was a priority for our family that we did that first and then see what else God would lead us to.
Amelia R: It actually took four years.
Tera M: So the challenges and struggles within that itself were, what?
Amelia R: The main struggle was on the India side, it was very disorganized. So our adoption agency and our workers, everything was fast. We were completely adopt ready on the list in India within five months of starting the process. From the time we were registered to the time we were matched was three years.
Amelia R: It was very unpredictable, we were assigned to three different orphanages that all told us they didn’t have children that met our requirements. We got bounced around, we were on waiting lists, we had one referral that after several months ended up falling through.
Lynette E.: Oh, that had to be difficult.
Amelia R: Yeah that was, towards the end of the process, that was right at the three year mark and it sort of felt like, is this ever going anywhere? Are we every going to bring a child home? I was finished school, we were both working. It sort of felt like, there is really nothing left to wait for, but God just kept leading us to wait. Thankfully our families and our church were really supportive in our wait.
Amelia R: To be honest, it was very hard to see people even get married and have kids in the time it took us to wait. And we were the last people in our peer group to become parents even though we had started much, much before. So finally after three and a half years, we were matched with Muncie, and the way that it works in India is you’re matched and then lots and lots of months go by, and you do court and pass court, then you come home.
Amelia R: So we matched with her just before her birthday, so September, then by February, we weren’t any closer to bringing her home. So we were on some Facebook adoption groups talked to some people and a couple of people said, you know if you go there, you can push things through a lot faster.
Amelia R: My mother-in-law, of course, was like you know if you come, we’ll help you, we’ll support you, you can come stay with us. So we prayed about it a bit, we talked to our bosses and we decided we would take six weeks of parental leave each and go to India cause we thought it would take about six weeks.
Tera M: So six weeks later, you brought Muncie home?
Amelia R: No. In April of 2016, we went to India, and we were hoping we’d be there for four to six weeks. We visited the orphanage for a couple of days and then brought Muncie to our in-laws house in Delhi where we ended up staying for five months.
Tera M: So Amelia, through all of that, the waiting, seeing your friends get married and have babies, the struggle of being bounced around, going to India thinking it was going to take six weeks and it took five and half months, what did you learn about yourself and what did you and Varoon learn about God, during that time?
Amelia R: That’s a great question. I think the biggest overarching thing that we learned is that God was writing the story and that we were not in control. I, so many times, wanted, like if I could just have a website where I could login and match myself to this child. Or if I could just talk to a lawyer, I could explain to them to submit the paperwork.
Amelia R: Or even when we were in Delhi, we would go to the Canadian Embassy day after day after day and wait. I was like if they would just let me inside, I could explain to them why they need to let us go home. And so it was kind of this continual surrender. OK, God has a different timeline, God has a different plan, God even had a different child in mind than we thought he did.
Amelia R: So even now, now that we’re home and sometimes things look different than what I would have hoped or expected. It’s kind of God continuing to remind us that ultimately he is the one in charge and he is the one writing our story.
Tera M: We’ve said often that this adoption process is many times far more about our own personal sanctification than even the child that the Lord had chosen for us or how he built our family. So I think learning that relinquishment of control is something that you have to learn and relearn over a lifetime.
Amelia R: That’s what it feels like. Absolutely.
Lynette E.: It really does and just when you think you get everyone settled, their personalities change or they go through puberty, or something happens, and you realize, Lord I really need you through this entire, entire calling. That our family needs you from sun up to sundown and you work while we’re sleeping. I take great peace in that.
Tera M: Me too. So Amelia, once you got home with Muncie, things settled in, life just went on and all of that difficult, struggle type stuff of life you could just out behind you and move forward.
Amelia R: Yes and no. I would say that, even a bit further back, when we brought Muncie from the orphanage to my in-laws’ house. Everybody kind of has his idea in their head of the announcement picture where you’re holding the child. OK the adoption process is over, happily ever after. That was not what we experienced and I know from talking to [inaudible 00:10:26] that’s not the experience that’s normal. From the day that we brought her to my in-laws’ house, Muncie was grieving. She was three and a half years old and she was sad. She was sad to leave the home that she had known for three years and it took months to get her to laugh and smile and play and to feel connected to us.
Amelia R: So I think for myself and for my husband it was sort of a rough landing into parenthood. You expect that you would care for a child and they would love you and it would just be mutually beneficial and rewarding experience, and instead it was just pouring and pouring love into somebody who was completely broken hearted.
Amelia R: So when we came home to Canada, thankfully and as I said God had been working the timing out. We did five months of cocooning. Our time in India, our world was really small. I stayed with Muncie and I didn’t many friends there, I didn’t have a lot of places to go and so we pretty much just played day in and day out, day in and day out. If we had been home in North America, that would not have happened.
Lynette E.: No, that was a great gift.
Amelia R: I would have been running errands, I would have been seeing my friends. I would have tried to cocoon, and I wouldn’t have just done it well. By the time we got back to Canada, we had forged a pretty good bond and I think that made the culture shock and the language shock and the weather shock all a lot easier for her. So we did, we hit like an OK patch for a while, but then we had a baby and had to figure out how to nurse, and all of the other things that you do when you have an infant, that are different than having a preschooler.
Amelia R: So I would say over the past two and a half years, if I look at the [inaudible 00:12:14] Muncie is adapting incredibly well. She feels that she belongs in our family, her English is perfect, she loves playing, she loves reading, she loves her extended family. She knows some of her story and is able to make some sense of it, but there are some really rough days.
Amelia R: There are some really rough moments of regular days. I think being able to see the big picture has helped some, because in those moments it sort of feels like, aren’t we on the other side of the happily ever after? Why is this not feeling happy?
Tera M: Right. I know you had talked about how your church had been really supportive of you when you were in India and in your process along the way, but I also know that when we’re adopting, we want people to see it as a happy moment because we don’t want to be the reason that other people don’t want to adopt. So we want almost sometimes to paint this picture of, I think you’ve said it before, that you want to paint an Instagram picture of your adoption, and then when it doesn’t happen that way, did you try to cover that up, or were you vulnerable enough to be honest with your community so that they could be what they’re supposed to be, which is the body of Christ.
Amelia R: That’s a great question. I think when we were in India, we were able to be pretty honest, and because our struggle was so obvious, and we had a lot of issues with the orphanage, and with officials and with people manipulative and that’s something that we were able to communicate to the people who are close to us. Eventually we ended up even writing a petition to members of our government and thousands of people signed that so were able to communicate some of our needs and some of the ways it was hard. Especially the home sickness and feeling like, what did we just get ourselves into? Parenting is not what we expected.
Amelia R: But I do remember sending a few texts those first couple weeks and wondering, like is there something wrong with me? Because even the moms that I was close to hadn’t exactly said what I was feeling. Everybody was real excited for me and I was feeling discouraged and scared and sad. It took me a couple weeks to be able to say, like, do other people feel this. Is this normal, am I broken? What’s the problem?
Amelia R: Then when we came home, things were pretty OK for a while, but as I started to see seasons of behavior, transitions that were difficult or patterns emerging, that’s when I started to say, Okay we need to be more real about this and I think our church needs to be more real.
Amelia R: Our church has a foster and adoptive care team, and we all kind of started the journey at the same time, so it’s a new ministry in our church. We all kind of got into the trenches at the same time. We just had a meeting a few weeks ago and kind of looked around and remembering our first event that we put on for the church. None of us really had kids in our home yet but we had all gone through the training.
Amelia R: We’re like everyone should do this, God said you should do it, it’s going to be awesome.
Lynette E.: It’s for everyone!
Amelia R: We put on an event for Orphan Care Sunday three weeks ago. We were all jut crying and saying this is so, so hard, and it’s so beautiful and we still think that God is calling us to do it and we still think that you can be involved in many different ways. But it’s not what we thought it was.
Amelia R: So there is an increasing freedom in our community to be able to speak honestly and to ask each other for help, for ideas, for tips. To ask for real prayer requests.
Lynette E.: I just love what you shared also on your blog. You said, “Parenting is messy. Adoption is messy. Parenting a child from a hard place is just messy.” And you also share, I just love this, that “You used think that adopting meant getting things together enough to be a superstar parent.” And I think when we drop that guard in community and say look we’re struggling here. Or we’re in a good spot right now. Things are going well. Tera’s heard that for me from years. We’re struggling or things are going well, you know. It really makes us more approachable and more able to do Galatians, do the fruit of the spirit and say, here’s why the Lord’s building this fruit in our lives and here’s how he’s doing it. It’s through the tough spots, it’s through the mess and it’s through heartache sometimes.
Tera M: As believers, we’re called to bear one another’s burdens. Galatians 6:2 tells us that we are to bear one another’s burdens. How have you seen the body really come alongside you all as you’ve learned how to become parents.
Amelia R: To be honest, Tera, we’ve been extremely lucky. God has really, really blessed us through our church community. That February when we were preparing to go to India, our apartment building flooded and we had to leave our apartment. So we were bounced around from hotels, different houses for about six weeks prior to leaving to India.
Amelia R: So when we went to India, all of our possessions, well the ones that weren’t destroyed by the flood, were in a storage locker and we didn’t have an apartment to come home to.
Lynette E.: Oh my goodness. She laughs about it now.
Amelia R: While we were in India, our church took out a rental in our name and moved us back into an apartment. They painted the walls, they decorated, they bought toys and clothes, they stocked our fridge, they stocked our freezer, they stocked our cabinets. So when we got off the plane, not only did our friends pick us up and drive us home, but we walked into a home that we hadn’t even left. We had kind of said like, oh well, we’ll stay at an Airbnb and then move once we get home.
Amelia R: That was huge thing. Our church has really served us practically. We always do meals when people first bring children into their home. But even more than that, I would say, we have a WhatsApp group of moms in our church who are adoptive or foster moms and we’re constantly texting each other encouragements, Bible Verses, SOS prayers, ideas, crowdsourcing parenting tips.
Amelia R: Our church as also put on an adoptive and foster conference with Jason Johnson. Several of the elders and pastors are involved in adoption or foster care so there’s just a real sense in the church of supporting each other, bearing each other’s burdens, and as we’ve all kind of started to become more honest and more transparent, I haven’t seen it put a damper on people’s willingness to join and to get involved and in some ways it’s almost given people freedom to share other things and just share what else is hard in parenting, even bio kids, or what’s hard in other ministries that people are involved in.
Tera M: That’s awesome. So Amelia, how would you say that how your church has served you, how you’ve seen the body of Christ rise up to be what they’re called to be. How has that changed you and Varoon as far as how you’ve then in turn served others.
Amelia R: I think we are in a much more broken and real place than we were five years ago when we started our adoption process, we were both working professionals and we are part of a ministry where we live in a neighborhood in our city that is low income, lots of immigrants and refugees. Like a crowded urban neighborhood, so we serve here with our team and before we had children, we would work and then we would come home and minister to our neighbors and love people. We were always in the position of serving.
Amelia R: So we would be the ones doing the moving, we’d be the ones bringing the meals, we’d be the ones taking to people to emerge in the night. We were kind of the helpers or the rescuers and now we are not. Now our neighbors see our children on the ground screaming and our neighbors have brought us food when our kids have been sick or, when we first came home when my daughter was born.
Amelia R: The same thing in our church. We’ve moved from a place of having tons of energy and tons of time to a place of not and a place of saying, it’s going to be a mess, but you’re welcome to come over for supper. Or we’d love to do that, our kids are going to come too, and we’re leave when we need to leave.
Amelia R: It’s definitely taught us, I think, a lot of…it’s challenged our default that sort of we can grow in God’s favor by having things together, or that we can…you know there’s even an element of pride that comes in with working hard and serving hard. I think God has really challenged that and broken that down. Even last night, we were trying to do an advent devotion, and well it was a gong show. There was food flying and people screaming and people falling off of chairs and the Bible was being grabbed at.
Tera M: It was a real night with little people.
Amelia R: It was. And we’re just looking at each other across the mayhem and going like, what do we do? And does other people’s devotion time look like this after supper?
Lynette E.: That’s the stuff we need to be posting.
Tera M: Yeah, exactly. That’s the Instagram picture for the day.
Lynette E.: It really is. I love what you said, that you’re learning to be OK with the middle place of the mess. What do you mean by that?
Amelia R: I think we like to tell stories after they’re finished. I told you the flood story, because it was over. I said Oh, this happened al long time ago, it’s all better now, our house it decorated and we’re good. That’s the way we like to tell stories. Or we like to tell the beginning of the story, like hey we’re going to adopt, it’s going to be awesome. But that middle place of this is incredibly hard and we’re stuck and we don’t know what to do, or we don’t like this, we regret this, we’re afraid of this. We don’t like to talk about that and yet that’s where pretty much all of our lives are majority of the time.
Amelia R: So I think for me, it’s been important seeing other moms begin their adoption process, or even moms who are pregnant and being able to say, it’s OK that you’re not going to get to this point. We’re like OK I figured it out and we’re good now.
Amelia R: There’s going to be new stages, there’s going to be new ages, there’s going to be new behaviors. And the reality is that kids do come from hard places. Trauma affects their brain, and it’s going to be a lifelong challenge to help them to stay regulated and to understand their story, grieve through their story. Understand their belief of belonging in your family. We can’t just think, OK they’re home now. They’ve been home for two years, they’ve been home for four years, things should be good. It’s not a realistic expectation.
Lynette E.: No it’s not. And like you say we just learn to love extra. You added that you make room at the table or on your laps for lots of hours of play. That the gig is up, you’re not fancy nor are you put together.
Amelia R: You know you might be thinking, Oh well she has a really good and supportive church, but mine isn’t. Or I don’t have any friends who fostered or adopted. I was thinking, OK what would I say to that? I would say you need to find one and make one. You need people that you can send SOS texts to when bedtime has become hours. Or kids are having a meltdown at a birthday party. You need to be able to have grown up conversations and receive honest love from people.
Amelia R: So whether that means standing up at your church and asking people to just come and pray with you even if you’re the only one at your church, who’s adoptive, you can still gather huge team at your church. Maybe it means looking on Facebook for adoptive or foster families in your area. Talking to your social worker, your agency, you need connection as much as our kids do.
Amelia R: Jason Johnson, who’s a big orphan advocate. He says that everyone can do something. So I would just encourage, if you’re feeling lonely or you’re feeling like you don’t have that supportive community, to reach out to people around you and say Hey, you may not be called to adoption, or foster care, but our family needs some help. Can you mow the lawn, can you take the bio kids out on date, can you bring a meal, can you pray for us.
Amelia R: I’m just passionate about helping our church to nurture a culture of caring for vulnerable kids and I think that it’s something that each of us can encourage our communities to do.
Lynette E.: I agree. In the early church, Paul wrote over and over, like Philippians 2:4, let each of you look not only to your own interests but to the interest of others.
Lynette E.: I remember a day Tera just showed up at my house, I still had on my pajamas, and I had just brought a child, a new little one into the home. She was three years old and we were just having a rough day and she said Here’s hot soup. You know and that just meant the world to me. I could finish the day, I could finish well that day, just because I had been encouraged.
Lynette E.: You’re right, it’s teaching one another within the body, how to care for each other and love one another through this journey.
Tera M: That’s great. Well Amelia, we really appreciate you being with us today. I think what you said earlier about embracing the middle of the mess is really OK and that’s probably for me, the biggest takeaway today is to lean into the hard and abide in the Lord through it all.
Tera M: So we really appreciate you being vulnerable enough to tell your story.
Amelia R: Thank you.
Lynette E.: Thanks for listening to the podcast today as Amelia Rana has shared so transparently how it took them four years to walk through this journey of adoption and then the real work begins at home.
Lynette E.: If you’d like more information about her or you’d like to read along in her story, we’ll share that at the end of the podcast in our show notes.
Lynette E.: We’d also appreciate it if you’d take just a minute and give us a review on iTunes, or just leave a comment and it kind of directs us and tells us which way we need to go with future podcasts.
Lynette E.: Thanks for listening and we look forward to being with you again.
Announcer: You have been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home. A resource of the North American Mission Board.
For more information about today’s podcast and other relevant resources, visit sendrelief.org